"Utilizing a digital twin changes the picture by minimizing the impact of anomalies in the short term, with a seamless path to restoring power. We think of a digital twin as a ledger that provides an auditable system of record for solar assets that will last 25+ years."

Using Digital Twins to Improve Solar Farms

Q&A with Don Nista, Head of Knowledge | Raptor Maps

Tell us about Raptor Maps and the company’s mission.

Raptor Maps was founded by MIT engineers Nikhil Vadhavkar and Eddie Obropta and has grown from a company focused on aerial inspections of solar farms into a software company supporting the entire solar lifecycle, which ranges from supply chain to construction worker enablement and onto decades of day-to-day operations. Our mission is to enable the solar industry to scale. We support portfolio owners, asset managers, O&M providers, EPC contractors, and independent engineers with software solutions that enable organization and asset optimization.


What products does Raptor Maps offer that help solar stakeholders to maximize profit and system performance?

Our software solution, Raptor Solar, provides a digital twin of a solar asset and essentially becomes a clearinghouse for data about the health of a solar farm. The digital twin incorporates data from inspections reports, allowing for the speedy identification and remediation of anomalies affecting power production. We also support serial-number scanning tied to the as-built, allowing for supply-chain transparency and mitigating maintenance risk. Raptor Solar has a warranty claims feature that streamlines the claims process when warrantable anomalies are identified on-site. The platform also supports work orders and task tracking, warehousing the entire maintenance history of the site. Meanwhile, leveraging data from inspections reports is a core part of our business, and calculations show that aerial inspections generate an additional $2,000/MW per year, and our reports identify and classify 100% of anomalies.


How does having a digital twin of a solar farm benefit the different players in the solar industry, from O&M to owners to financiers? 

Roughly 40% of solar farms do not achieve P90 energy yield estimates, and as an industry we need to improve that substantially -- ideally to under 10% -- in order to provide solid ROI. Utilizing a digital twin changes this picture by minimizing the impact of anomalies in the short term, with a seamless path to restoring power. Also, we think of a digital twin as a ledger that provides an auditable system of record for solar assets that will last 25+ years.


How can the solar industry respond to the increasing challenges posed by extreme weather events? 

Extreme weather is unfortunately making it increasingly more challenging to run a solar farm, but there are clear ways to respond to, say, a hail storm and restore functionality as expediently as possible. As a response to an extreme weather event, we advise clients to quickly get an aerial IR scan performed so that both insurance and warranty claims can move forward. Raptor Solar’s warranty claims feature addresses these scenarios by presenting a tech-forward solution for claims: They can be processed entirely within our platform, as opposed to requiring things like a long paper trail and email correspondence. We streamline the process and make it faster. 


What’s next for Raptor Maps? 

The solar industry is in it infancy, and by some metrics we have only built 10% of what we need to construct to hit our climate goals. While the Inflation Reduction Act gave the industry juice in terms of greatly increased federal funding, at Raptor Maps we are keenly aware that more supportive tissue needs to be put in place to handle inevitable growing pains. Our goal at Raptor Maps is to be the data repository for the solar industry so that all stakeholders can make informed decisions that maximize power output and profits. To that end, we are identifying pain points in the utility-scale solar industry and continuing to provide market solutions. 


The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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